It may be well over three years old at this point, but the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 still stands tall as one of the best graphics cards you can put in a gaming PC. With its excellent 1440p performance, more than enough headroom to handle ultrawide gaming, and reliable ray tracing capabilities, you'll have no complaints with one in your system. I got one for my own rig in early 2021, and it's still going strong even with the latest and greatest games cranked up to High and Ultra settings.
To get the most out of this mid-range beast, though, you'll want to pair it with a quality CPU from Intel or AMD. You'll need one to provide the processing power the card needs for maximum performance — and luckily, you're spoiled for choice, with plenty of great processors available. Here are some of the best CPUs for the RTX 3070 that I recommend.
The Core i5-13600K is around $300, and is arguably the best CPU for gaming right now, combining the power of its 14 cores and 20 threads with a rather high, but manageable 125W TDP, support for either DDR4 or DDR5, and PCIe 5.0 compatibility. It can boost all the way up to 5.1GHz and runs on the same motherboards as Intel's previous 12th Gen chips, so if you're already on LGA 1700, you won't have to upgrade.
Best elite Intel
For the RTX 3070, we wouldn't recommend going for anything above the $380-420 Core i7-13700K. Offering around 15-20% more performance on average compared to the 13600K, it's ideal for folks who plan to use their 3070 to do some intensive productivity work whenever they're not gaming. If that's not you, you'll probably be better off with the 13600K.
Best budget Intel
Looking to save some money? The Intel 12th Gen Core i5-12400F, at $150, delivers some of the best value there is in the CPU market. Though its performance falls short of what you'd get with something like the newer 13600K and it doesn't support overclocking out of the box, it's still great. Also, since it's an LGA 1700 CPU, it works with both DDR4 and DDR5, allowing you to use your old memory if you want to.
Best for AM4 holdouts
If you're committed to sticking with your existing AM4 motherboard, the Ryzen 7 5800X is generally what I'd recommend. Both in terms of price as well as performance, it fits in between the i5-12400F and i5-13600K at around $230-260. Eight cores, 16 threads, a 105W TDP, and PCIe 4.0 support all make it an attractive option.
Best overall AMD
While it's difficult to recommend AMD's Ryzen 5 7600X since the 13600K beats it in multi-core workloads and matches it in gaming (the Ryzen 7 7700X isn't very competitive, either), the $400-420 Ryzen 9 7900X goes toe-to-toe with the Core i7-13700K. It performs slightly worse in gaming, but better in productivity.
Best budget AMD
Another AM4 option that's more budget-friendly is the Ryzen 5 5600X, which performs a bit worse than the i5-12400F but can also be found for a marginally lower cost depending on what deals are available. Notably, it can be overclocked, which helps it get close to matching Intel's chip. You'll be limited to just using DDR4 RAM by AM4, but that's not that big of a deal.
Intel vs. AMD: Which to choose?
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The rivalry between Intel and AMD is arguably the fiercest it's ever been right now, which is great news for folks like you and me that are buying their processors for our computers. Generally, I'd say Intel offers better value at the moment with better performance and lower costs in many cases, though I'd steer clear of Intel 14th Gen for now. Team Red has wins of its own, too, and honestly, you can't really go wrong no matter what you go with.
Something that's worth keeping in mind, though, is that Intel's moving on from the LGA 1700 socket starting with its next generation of chips, while AMD's only just begun with AM5. That means its current ecosystem has a better path for future upgrades, saving you money you'd have to spend on a new motherboard later by going with Intel now. However, choosing AM5 means getting pricier DDR5 memory, which is something you don't have to do with DDR4-compatible 12th or 13th Gen Intel CPUs.
Choosing the best CPU for NVIDIA RTX 3070
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 is still a top choice for gamers looking to enjoy an awesome gaming experience without overspending. Even three years later, it continues to power through everything I've thrown at it, and I couldn't be happier with the upgrade from my 2070 I made back in early 2021.
These are some of the best CPUs available right now, and happen to also be good CPUs for the RTX 3070 that'll ensure you get peak performance out of it. If I had to recommend one over all the others, it'd be the i5-13600K, as it either beats or is fiercely competitive with the entire Ryzen 7000 series of processors, yet only costs about $300 or so. However, they're all excellent choices, and if you have an AM4 motherboard already or want to move to the futureproof AM5 ecosystem, Team Red chips like the Ryzen 7 5800X or Ryzen 9 7900X won't disappoint.
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Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.